“The Council understands the gravity of the crisis facing New York City and those seeking asylum, and that there are no easy solutions. That is why we sought to offer alternatives for Mayor Adams’ Administration to consider for locating the Humanitarian Emergency Relief and Recovery Center (HERRC) and changes the City could make immediately on its own to end counterproductive homeless policies that are contributing to this crisis. The Administration has insisted HERRCs are not shelters, because they do not comply with the right-to-shelter law. We initially identified 10 large-scale hotels that appeared to be closed that the City could consider for the purposes of intake and relief services, not operate as temporary shelters, consistent with the Administration’s description of a HERRC. Given their capacity, these alternative indoor locations potentially have large enough open spaces to accommodate such an operation to serve 500 people. The Council’s identification of these hotels was conducted through use of our limited staff resources and largely publicly available data, which we know is dwarfed by the dozens of agencies and offices and hundreds of thousands of employees within the control of a mayoral administration.
“We again encourage the Administration to consider these locations as more humane indoor settings for humanitarian relief in New York City. We also urge them to immediately change the counterproductive homeless system policies that are exacerbating this crisis and are completely within their control, such as the 90-days in-shelter requirement for CityFHEPS rental vouchers. Our purpose for identifying an even larger set of closed hotels was to highlight a trend and broad landscape of buildings potentially available to the City for supportive housing conversion to relieve another of the stresses on our shelter system – the lack of permanent affordable housing.
“At the same time, we reject the Mayor’s argument that the Council has been unhelpful during this crisis. This Administration has placed several emergency shelters to house asylum seekers within my own district during this crisis with little notice, and I have welcomed them. Many Council members are on the ground in their districts witnessing the gaps that these new residents are facing in receiving help and services from the City. They are working with non-profit organizations to bridge the gaps by delivering food, supporting their schools, and addressing other challenges.
“We agree with the Mayor that our state and federal government partners need to work with us to provide greater support. Yet, there also needs to be more honesty about the conditions and challenges with the City’s support for homeless New Yorkers and asylum seekers. It is a disservice to gloss over problems with the City’s response because it only undermines our ability to address challenges and improve services. We continue to remain willing to collaborate with the Administration to address this crisis, and are closely reviewing the Mayor’s executive order.”
The following hotels in Manhattan appear to be closed and temporarily available for the administration to administer intake and relief services, consistent with its proposed HERRC model:
- Doubletree by Hilton Metropolitan (764 rooms)
- Maxwell New York City (697 rooms)
- NYC ESH Lexington (646 rooms)
- Watson Hotel (597 rooms)
- Hilton Hotel & Resort Times Square (478 rooms)
- Hotel Wolcott (178 rooms)
- Cassa Hotel New York (165 rooms)
- Hotel Plaza Athenee (143 rooms)
- Gregory Hotel New York (132 rooms)
- Hotel Stanford (122 rooms)
Homeless services policy changes that the Council demanded the City to immediately pursue within its own control:
- Eliminating the rule that requires people to remain in the shelter system for 90 days before becoming eligible for the CityFHEPS rental voucher program;
- Reducing the number of homeless families with children who are needlessly shuffled between conditional shelter placements by removing administrative barriers and advocating for the State to reevaluate verification requirements (families can be repeatedly required to return to the PATH Intake Center to reapply and be placed, promoting instability and unnecessarily extending the timeframe to access supports transitioning out of the shelter system);
- Resolving bureaucratic errors and inefficiencies in the application process for CityFHEPS and supportive housing that block people from accessing the opportunities to transition from the shelter system;
- Prioritizing hiring of Department of Social Services (DSS) staff who help process CityFHEPS applications and supportive housing placements, to both reduce backlogs that currently occur and prepare for an increase in applications;
- Tackling source-of-income discrimination that blocks people with rental vouchers from securing apartments by ensuring adequate staffing and operational capacity of the Source of Income Unit at the Commission on Human Rights.